PRATTVILLE, Alabama — Austin Ernst endured a long weather delay before grabbing the lead at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. Now, she faces a marathon final day to claim her second career title.
Ernst took the lead at 10 under Saturday before darkness forced the suspension of third-round play in the weather-delayed event.
Ernest was 1 under through four holes after waiting out a five-hour delay for rain and lightning on the links-style Senator Course. She passed second-round leader Yani Tseng, who had a bogey on the fourth hole to drop to 9 under, and has 31-plus holes to go.
"It's going to be a marathon," said Ernst, who will return to an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 5. "There's a lot of golf left. It will basically just be get as many birdies as I can. I know the scores are still going to be low. It's just going to be more continuous golf than usual.'
Players are expected to stay in the same groups for early morning starts Sunday, trying to complete the 72-hole tournament.
A number of players had to complete the second round Saturday after a 90-minute delay a day earlier. None completed more than 14 holes in the third round.
Ernst, a 23-year-old former LSU player, had a birdie on the second hole. She won the Portland Classic last year.
Tseng had hoped to ride momentum from her finish on Friday. She had closed an 8-under 64 with an eagle and a birdie to move to 10 under.
The 26-year-old Taiwanese player, ranked No. 1 for 109 weeks early in her career, is trying to snap an 85-event winless streak dating to the 2012 Kia Classic.
Tseng won seven times in 2011, becoming the youngest player to win consecutive Rolex Player of the Year awards and earning just shy of $3 million. The 15-time tour winner's only top-10 finish of the year came when she tied for second in March in the LPGA Thailand.
Kim was 3 under through seven and birdied her final two holes.
Players and fans were sent scurrying to shelter with lightning in the area about 45 minutes before the leaders were scheduled to tee off. Rain and more lightning followed through much of the afternoon in suburban Montgomery.
Sadena Parks, at 7 under through seven holes, said the course held up well and that the players didn't get rained on much during their round.
"The course drained very well, so the greens were still rolling out just as much," Parks said. "And the fairways, the ball was reacting the same as if it was dry."
Ernst waited out the delay visiting with two aunts, her mom and a couple of family friends.
"I was glad we did get a few holes in," she said. "That way we should be able to finish (Sunday) so that will be good."